Review: Promise of Blood

Posted: April 24, 2013 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Brian McClellan, Epic Fantasy

I feel bad. I received an ARC of PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan (Amazon) several months ago and quickly devoured it. I had every intention of having a review ready to go when the book came out…and then it didn’t happen. The problem was I wanted to write something witty and fun about the book but all I kept coming up with was…. I liked it. I liked it a lot. And that’s really understating it because I really, really did like it. After finishing McClellan’s debut I looked him up to check out news for the next book. I looked on Amazon to see what was going on. I even checked on Orbit’s blog to see if there was any news about the series. It was a dang good book. I just felt that I should do something more with the review than just, “Yeah, I really liked it.”

And that’s my bad. Here, Brian has gone out of his way to write a stellar debut novel and I can’t get off my lazy butt to write him a review? Shame on me. SHAME ON ME! As a person of integrity I MUST make amends!

Dear Brian,

Dude, my bad. You did your part. You wrote a great book. You had a fun interesting world with stuff in it that I’ve never seen. You had fantasy in a revolutionary war type setting and I’ve never read anything like that. You had mages who get powers from gunpowder. You had Gods walking among men, not to mention several other really neat surprises thrown in (I won’t spoil them all here–there may be readers watching).

You had fun and interesting characters. I loved Tamas. I mean the book starts out with him killing the king and overthrowing the existing government? What a great opening. It sets up a pace right from the beginning that made me not want to put the book down. Then you throw in a mystery of a dying man’s phrase that could have significant meaning to the war–the way the investigator, Adamat handled that one was terrific. Oh and let’s not forget Tamas’ son, Taniel who is tasked with tracking down and killing a very powerful powder mage (or so we think). And just as I’m beginning to get the sense that revolutionaries = good, and royalty = bad, you throw in Nila–a servant in a former royal house–who has a different view on things. Great stuff!

Reading through the book was a joy. I enjoyed the magic systems and twists and turns of various powers. I also liked the interplay of the stories, specifically how characters would come and go interacting with various point of view characters to give me a greater sense of the whole. Honestly, PROMISE OF BLOOD gave me a very Daniel Abraham/Brandon Sanderson vibe (and if that sentence doesn’t give you goosebumps then you must have no soul). I honestly can’t give much higher praise than that.

So again Brian, I’m sorry. I dropped the ball on this one. To make it up to you, I’ll make you a deal. How about, you send me Advanced Reader Copies of the next two books in the series (as soon as possible please) and I promise to have reviews ready to go the day those books are published. Deal?

Your New Fan,

Everyone should pick up PROMISE OF BLOOD. Brian McClellan will easily make it onto our short-list of 2014 Campbell Award nominees. He's really that good.

Shawn of Elitist Book Reviews

Everyone should pick up PROMISE OF BLOOD. Brian McClellan will easily make it to our short-list next year when nominations for the Campbell Award are open. Yes, it really is that good.

  • Recommended Age: 16+ for violence and some suggestive stuff
  • Language: Nothing really to comment on
  • Violence: Starts with the king being murdered and there's a massacre in there as well. Not super gory though.
  • Sex: Referenced and suggested

Any fan of Daniel Abraham and/or Brandon Sanderson should pick up Brian McClellan’s debut.


  • Terenbas says:

    I thought that Brian Mckellan had some pretty fantastic ideas. His three main characters were well-drawn, although I felt that Taniel's relationship with his father should have had more pages.

    My one problem with the book though was Mckellan's decision to add in a “supernatural” element into the plot. I felt that it jarred with the Pre-industrial revolution Europe feel. I also felt that Tamas should have had a bigger KILL THEM ALL moment.

  • avivs says:

    What a book! So good. I want the next one NOW.

  • So I just love your favorites list but I’m appalled you think so highly of this book. I found the writing so bad it’s the first time I’ve abandoned a series.
    Can’t even hold a candle to Abraham and Sanderson.
    And yes, the “flintlock fantasy” thing Sanderson keeps talking about is a neat idea.

    • Writer Dan says:

      So, I just got done reading this one last week, and I would have given it a “Books We Like and Hate” rating. There are so many things that McClellan does well in this novel (world-building, plot, description, and just plain filling out so many dang pages) and yet there are a lot of things he did that really bothered me (little to no characterization after the first 100 pages, modern verbiage/references, REALLY fast climax). His writing isn’t bad. In fact, for how little characterization and POV impact that is included in the pages, he does a really good job of writing. There were a handful of times that really came off poorly-done and even corny, but as I was reading those scenes I realized that they were like that because of that lack of character depth and impact that is so important to great fantasy stories. I was also kind of let down to realize that there was another “investigator” type in this book. I read “Sins of Empire” first and that one had an investigator type in it as well. Glad to hear that you like Abraham so much. Dude is just genius.

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